Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Looking abroad to find transportation answers

International fellow from Turkey spends a month in Seattle learning about sustainable transportation

By Heather DeRosa

For most, a visit to the Seattle area in May brings soaking up limited sunshine and checking out Pike Place Market or the Space Needle. But for Ali Onuralp √únal, his visit was far from what tourists see.

Ali's month-long visit was part of the Professional Fellowship Program, funded by the United States Department of State, administered by the American Councils for International Education. As one of 30 young professionals visiting cities all across the United States, Ali came to our Regional Transit Coordination Division hoping to take many of our sustainable and active transportation plans and best practices home with him to Ankara, Turkey.
WSDOT Regional Transit Coordination Division engineer Jay Cooper took Ali on a tour of the I-90 floating bridge,
soon to be the first floating bridge to house a light rail line.

Our Regional Transit Coordination Division proved to be a perfect match to host Ali last month. Working with Sound Transit and other local transit agencies in the Central Puget Sound area, the Regional Transit Coordination Division helps deliver a more sustainable, integrated, multimodal transportation system that gives people more choices for how to get around.

Ali spent much of his time learning about active transportation. His days were filled with field trips, informational interviews, and plenty of walking and exploring Seattle and Olympia. Our staff along with, staff from local cities, transit agencies and others groups made themselves available to share their expertise and provide inspiration.

One of those field trips was touring Seattle DOT's bike lanes with City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang.

"Dongho took me to see the separated bike lanes from traffic," Ali said. "I was able to see the pros and cons of using Lime and Jump bicycles in these lanes."
Six million people live in Ankara, and many of those people are part of families with two or three cars, leading to traffic congestion, decreased air quality, and difficulty navigating through biking or walking. He said the key to tackling their issues is creating an urban mobility plan.
Left: Seattle DOT City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang gave Ali a tour of the city’s bicycle lanes. Right: Ali (upper left) and other Professional Fellows from Turkey made a stop at Healy Hall at Georgetown University in
Washington, D.C. as part of his experience in the United States.

"We can improve air quality and optimize transportation by building sidewalks and bike lanes," he said. "Seattle has lots of solutions about solving traffic congestion, which is a problem in all cities of the world, but in Ankara it's one of our most political items to date."

Ali came to Seattle hoping to gain more resources about sustainable transportation, and he says that goal was met.

"I was able to see the bike master plan, pedestrian master plan, Vision 2020, and the I-5 system partnership," he said. "I really saw how to create a new mobility plan for a big city through these informational interviews."

As a continuation of the bridge that was formed between our agencies through his visit, Ali invited Celeste Gilman, our Deputy Director of Regional Transit Coordination, to visit Ankara in October to share our best practices with Ankara's city leaders as an outbound project as part of the Professional Fellows Program.